ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER,
THE MOST HON. PORTIA SIMPSON MILLER,
AT THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF DIGICEL FOUNDATION
STELLA MARIS FOUNDATION
JANUARY 15, 2014
- Master of Ceremonies, Mrs. Jean Lowrie-Chin
- Ms. Lisa Lewis, Chair, Digicel Foundation
- Hon. Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining
- Rev. Hon. Ronald Thwaites, Minister of Education
- Hon. Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labour & Social Security
- Ms. Dahlia Harris representing Minister Lisa Hanna -Youth and Culture
- Senator Angella Brown-Burke, Mayor of Kingston
- Mr. Andrew Swaby, Deputy Mayor
- Members of Parliament – Mr. Lloyd B. Smith, Mr. Mikael Phillips, Mr. Daryl Vaz and Dr. Andrew Wheatley
- Mrs. Samantha Chantrelle, Executive Director, Digicel Foundation
- Major General Robert Neish CD, Executive Vice Chairman, Digicel Foundation
- Father, Dr. Howard Thompson, Patron, Stella Maris Foundation
- Mr. Omar Frith, General Manager, Stella Maris Foundation
- Mrs. Antonica Gunter-Gayle, Principal , Early Stimulation Plus
- Mrs. Keisha Malvo-Brooks, Principal, Lakes Pen Basic School
- Students and teachers,
- Members of the media
Let me thank the organizers for affording me the pleasure of sharing this very special occasion with you, the launch of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Digicel Foundation. I think it is most appropriate that this launch is taking place here at the Stella Maris Foundation and in this community. It sends the message loudly and unmistakably that Digicel stands with the people, especially those who are most in need of its help and facilitation.
The Digicel Foundation was created precisely as a response to the urgent needs of people. Its birth came as a result of Digicel’s response to an emergency— in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
In a decade, this foundation has funded 437 projects to the tune of US$19 million, impacting the lives of 400,000 persons. That is no small accomplishment! It is an indication of Digicel’s commitment to the people of Jamaica. The Digicel Foundation has done impressive work in community enterprise, assisting persons in income-generating activities and building their skills. I am particularly gratified by the foundation’s work in education and with persons with special needs.
The Enrichment Education Programme, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and USAID, is particularly noteworthy. That programme has reached 111 schools and there is a plan to reach an additional 100 schools in the next three years. The Enrichment Programme maximizes the use of technology in education and enables students to get individualized instruction. Already the results have shown significant improvements in reading skills.
I am also delighted at the news that 200 teachers are to be trained in this programme. At a time when we need to strengthen science education, this year the foundation will install 10 mobile science carts in schools across the island which have no science labs.
There is more good news from the Digicel Foundation! Ten special needs centers of excellence are to be built over the next three years. In addition, a training and diagnostic hub will be established this year to provide ongoing training of teachers in special needs, using a technology-driven approach.
I commend the Digicel Foundation for partnering with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to work islandwide to provide special needs assistance to those on the PATH programme. Your intervention has made a difference to the over 300 children who have been served annually. Your partnership with PATH compliments the efforts of the government, which has allocated $4.1 billion dollars to the PATH programme in this current fiscal year. In April this year, for the financial year 2014/15, this will move to $5 billion.
We have increased PATH benefits for the elderly by as much as 67% and provided $100 million in scholarships to 1,000 tertiary level students from PATH households. Additionally, $170 million has been allocated for transportation allowances for PATH students as a start. Twenty-thousand students are targeted.
This administration continues to make investments in people and social development, even as we pursue our necessary strategy of fiscal prudence and debt management. Yet, as government we know that we cannot do all that is required by ourselves. We need socially sensitive corporate entities, like Digicel, to join us in this drive for national development.
Digicel, and in particular the Digicel Foundation, has continued to display its commitment to partnership, collaboration and cooperation with the development of Jamaica and Jamaicans as its primary mandate.
The administration I lead believes in Public Private Partnership. We believe that ‘we are all in this thing together’.
We also know that while we need economic growth to fuel social development, it must not be thought that economic growth in itself will automatically lead to social development. This government is committed to deliberate, targeted focus on planned social development. This is why we continue to invest in people. At the core of our development philosophy is putting people at the centre of development.
The Digicel Foundation’s new campaign, “Inspired by Extraordinary Jamaicans”, demonstrates that the Foundation shares similar views. I am impressed that you have chosen to highlight some extraordinary people who have been touched by the Foundation. I am particularly gratified that you intend, through this campaign, “to inspire other organizations and individuals to undertake sustainable projects that will boost national development”.
Thank you for taking this step. You have demonstrated that you have looked beyond singular ‘bottom line’ concerns and embraced the philosophy of the ‘triple bottom line’ – matching profit with the development of people and our planet. You continue to demonstrate that investment in people is the most important investment.
Digicel Foundation’s new “Inspired” initiative reflects the government’s thrust to move our people through the stages (as I have always said) from welfare to work, work to well being and well-being to wealth creation. As a result, in December, we announced a special $75 million social intervention programme to help people who are encountering difficulties. Included in this is a provision for micro business facilitation.
There is so much talent in our country…so much potential. We must invest in this talent and allow it to come to the fore. There are so many brilliant people in Jamaica who would do well in any field, not just in sport and entertainment, if they get an opportunity. In my own constituency I am faced with this daily, and this is why I have focused most of my attention and resources on education.
Together, let us give diligent, ambitious Jamaicans an opportunity to shine.
- Let us give them that chance to excel.
- Let us throw a lifeline to them.
- Let us pull them in.
- Let us not leave them to those who are only too willing to recruit them for their evil intents.
- Let us all unite – Government, corporate entities and as a people, in one giant campaign to bring out the extraordinary in all of us.
It is also critical, at this stage of our nation’s development to encourage a renewed national initiative that promotes volunteerism – even as we thank the thousands of volunteers who give of themselves selflessly across Jamaica every day.
- I call on more Jamaicans, all Jamaicans, to give more, to volunteer more, to become their brother and sister’s keeper.
- I call on more Jamaicans, all Jamaicans, to give something back.
- I call on more Jamaicans, all Jamaicans, to reach out to others.
Let us take to heart the words of the song, “If I can help somebody as I travel along, then my living shall not be in vain.”
The Digicel Foundation has provided a solid foundation and an example of this sentiment to many over the past ten years.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Digicel Foundation:
On this your tenth anniversary, thank you and to encourage you to continue to make your contribution.
Your benevolent approach, your exemplary corporate citizenship and the corporate social responsibility Digicel displays, continues to go a far way in building human capital and helping the nation to grow and develop. By your deeds you are telling Jamaica that you have no intention of letting up.
There is an Irish saying that sums up all that you do. I will not, however, attempt to say it in Gaelic – It says:
“Under the shelter of each other, people survive”.
Simply – each one, reach one, help one, strengthen one, teach one, support one… and what a strong, dynamic nation we will have.
Thank you, Digicel Foundation, for your sterling example. We salute you on this, your tenth anniversary.
I thank you and God bless you.